One Good Thing

Rose of Sharon

My curmudgeon credentials are impeccable. When I was a small child, my mother occasionally called me Hard-Hearted Hannah (I don’t remember exactly why, but it was probably deserved). In my early 20s, I worked with a woman who sighed, “So cynical for one so young.” I’ve been compared to the Shirley MacLaine character in “Steel Magnolias.”

But even this curmudgeon gets tired of it all, and by “it” I mean the whole damn thing. The endless turmoil of news reports. The ungodly relentless hot weather. Squabbling on the internet. The stress of everyday living: heartbreak, disappointment, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, anger. It’s exhausting and disheartening and emotionally debilitating.

Worse, like a forest fire creating its own firestorm and its own weather, misery’s vortex draws us in. We don’t – can’t – look away. We feed on the unhappiness, maybe getting a hit of schadenfreude to keep us going. It seems increasingly difficult to avoid toxicity.

There’s an internet meme reading, “My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.” I like to think I’m pretty well-informed, but I need a break.

One Good Thing. That’s the title. That’s what this will be – a measure of something good. Nonpolitical, nonpartisan. No clickbait. Just something I find that sings to me and lifts me out of the miasma, something I think is worth sharing.

My online friend Patrick Vecchio wrote this a few years ago. When I told him this was brilliant and that I was shamelessly lifting it, he wrote, “As Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band once observed, ‘The amateur imitates. The pro steals.’ A line he no doubt stole.”

The first buds popped on my big Rose of Sharon bush in the backyard today. The flowers are white with a maroon-ish center. They look nice but aren’t as fragrant as I wish.

The appearance of this first flower is like getting a telephone call from Autumn. “I’m coming over,” she says, and there’s no avoiding her.

The Perseids meteor shower Aug. 11-12 is like hearing Autumn’s car in the driveway.

Labor Day is when she turns off the ignition, gets out of her car, knocks on the door and invites herself in. “Long time no see,” she always says. She stays to chat awhile and, before she leaves, tells me she’ll be thinking of me at the vernal equinox.

“I’ll be back,” she says just before she rolls up her car window and backs down the driveway.

Of course she’ll be back.

Of course she will.

Barbara Rice
Barbara Rice is's administrative assistant. She grew up in Igo listening to the devil's music, hearing tales of WWII, and reading James Thurber and Mad Magazine while dreaming of travel to exotic lands. She graduated from Shasta High School, Shasta College, and San Francisco State University. After too many blistering Sacramento Valley summers, she's traded it all for the ocean breezes of Humboldt County. She's been told she's a bad influence and that makes her very happy. She tweets, travels, and spoils cats. There's a dance in the old dame yet.
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19 Responses

  1. Jim Dowling Jim Dowling says:

    Refreshing message to start the day.  A nicely penned reminder that the doldrums of infernal heat have nearly run their course.  Summer tilts toward Fall.  Hey, it even rained yesterday!  — and, to have this revealed in a flower.  Sublime.

  2. Randall Smith Randall Smith says:

    And the Magladry, a cold north wind that annually chases the doves south before the opener, always comes on or about 20 August.  Keep faith, but recall what Mark Eubanks always said, “Extremes of temperatures follow each other.  Hot summers generally mean cold winters.”

  3. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    A Rose of Sharon.  My sister’s name is Sharon.  And do you know what that 77-year-old who looks more like 45 is doing these days in addition to operating her own bookkeeping business?  She’s peeling logs with a crowbar and hammer for some friends who are building a small cabin in preparation for making a site for black-powder shooters to hold frontier days.  Fortunately the property is in Washington State not in torrid California.

    Thanks, Barbara, for the reminder that those little things – the blooming of a Rose of Sharon, the bluebirds raising a third clutch this summer in our nest box, our silk tree blooming for the very first time since it was planted some 18 years ago – are reasons to rejoice.

  4. Barbara, I welcome this new column with an open heart as a respite from life’s unsavory stuff. Thank you! I needed this!

    Write on!

  5. Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

    At a rather difficult part of my life, someone told me to focus on something good about my day.  Anything at all.  I snarkily said I enjoyed my applesauce with lunch and she said that’s exactly what we should do.  Find the tiny good things and you’ll start to see bigger good things, which lead to a greater awareness of good things in general.  It’s something I’ve tried to stay mindful of every day, with varying levels of success.

    This column is today’s good thing for me.  Beautifully crafted, perfectly timed and it brought a smile to my face just thinking about the coming Fall.  Thank you!

    • Avatar K. Beck says:

      Sometimes it is only a good cup of coffee in the morning! I take some time to sit down and enjoy each swallow. Instead of gulping it down and running off to do something. That is always a good start to my day!…maybe I will add a cup of some of my home made apple sauce. Sounds like a good combination!…reminds me I have some apples in the fridge that need to be turned into something useful. Thanks Matthew!

  6. Deb Deb says:

    Lovely, lovely post, Barbara!  I’m so excited you are starting a regular column!!  Many thanks for this first good thing.

  7. Avatar Erika Kilborn says:

    Would it be too smarmy to say that this column is my good thing for the day? Oh wait, Matthew beat me to it. Well, never mind. It still is.

    Since last November, it has been hard to find things to feel positive about. But I realize that I have to keep a sunny outlook because David depends on it. I didn’t realize how much my mood influenced his until this past Spring when I was dealing with the cancer thing. I got down and scared and it really hit him hard. So, Pollyanna it is. That was my mom’s nickname for me when I was a kid. Want to play the Glad Game with me?

  8. Avatar A glesca lass says:

    Ah, Barbara. It’s good to be in your company again! I’m looking forward  to travelling down the road with you towards curmudgeon-recovery. (Occasional relapse is permitted)

  9. Avatar kay ekwall says:

    I hop e you don’t mind a poem I wrote years ago, as this article reminded me of it..


                                                                               Take Nothing For Granted

    The smell of fresh coffee – bittersweet
    wafts slowly through the house
    and assails my nostrils.
    I breathe in the pungent odor
    smiling as my lover gifts me this present.

    I sit – the morning crisp breeze
    gathers around me
    and through me and in me.
    I close my eyes
    and let its’ gentleness caress me,
    remembering its’ horrid howls
    from the night before.

    My eyes take in the scenery..
    the crisp white of the snow
    dark trees etched against them.
    Bright greens bombard my senses
    so bright I cannot look.
    I take it all in…
    the green, a sign of hope,
    of newness, of change….
    of healing.

    Tasting the softness of the barley oats,
    my tongue savors, feels the ridges,
    runs its’ way around my mouth
    touching bits of barley, sunflower seeds,
    sweetness and soy.
    I let it linger there, giving thanks
    for the food, for the sensation.

    Smiling at faces around me,
    my friends..a twinkle here and there,
    a smile..a touch, a warm embrace.
    We exchange pleasantries, energies..
    a deep thought, a sharing so special
    my heart fills up with love.

    I think back to times when I had not this space
    this understanding,
    that each moment is precious.

    My life was confused, unhappy, scared,
    afraid of what the moments would bring.
    Now, I look forward to each one
    but totally enjoy the one that is now!


    kay ekwall©1998

  10. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    My first thought upon reading of Autumn’s approach:  Winter is coming.  That’s been my mood.

    I’m guilty, too, of being in a funk since November—guilty because I’ve been treating that funk like Gollum cherishing his ring.  Indulging it, polishing it.  Then, just as I felt I was coming out of that funk, the oppressive heat came like a freight train.  Instant lethargy.

    All morning long I’ve been watching turkey vulture shadows circling the back of the property, big and low.  I’ve only caught brief glimpses of the actual birds, but the shadows let me know they’ve been circling for hours.  I’m going to go out after lunch, see what died.  “See what died” seems like metaphor and mantra at this point—something to mutter whenever I read the news.

    Alas, I don’t have enough ticks left on the clock to be waiting for the turning of the seasons to get my mind right.  Summer spent waiting for fall; winter spent waiting for spring.  A week in Colorado’s high country would set me straight pronto, but it’s not in the cards.  I’d settle for my yellow lab to stop her limping.  That would make me happy.  At least for a time.

    • Avatar cheyenne says:

      The pineapple express is rolling through the Rockies here now and that Colorado High Country may see some snow this week.  Getting 15 inches of snow May 15th on the flatland, 6,000 feet, we might see a white Autumn.  Looks to be a short summer this year.  The Sturgis folks may see some white on their way home this year.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        I love the first dusting of snow of the year.

        I’m tempted to tell my wife that I’m driving to Utah and on to western Colorado in September to see the aspen turn and get in some last-of-the-year fishing.  She won’t be able to go, so it’ll be a hard sell, but I got zero weeks off this spring/summer, and I’m losing my $#!+.

    • Avatar K. Beck says:

      Last year I attended the open house at Shasta Wildlife Rescue in Anderson. The volunteers often take home animals that cannot be released, to care for them until their “natural life” is over. Two women who had taken home vultures were their with their “pet” vultures. They had amazing stories to tell about their birds. I have new found respect for these birds. So much so, that one day when I was driving on Shasta View I saw a small vulture hopping around a dead animal (turned out to be a squirrel) squashed in the middle of the road. Clearly it wasn’t quite able to figure out exactly what it was supposed to do. Overhead was a huge vulture circling. I figured that was the mom or dad. I was fearful that some car driving 70 MPH on Shasta View was going to squash the baby vulture, so I turned the car around, went back home, got my shovel and drove back to the “situation.” I scooped up the dead squirrel and tossed it to the side of the road where the vultures could still get it, but were safe from the wonton humans. The circling vulture was watching the whole time. I told this story to someone who is a member of the Native Plant Society. He said he has a spot on his land with a big hill on it. For some reason there is a natural indentation at the top of the hill. When he finds dead animals on his property he deposits them in the indentation to feed the vultures. So IMHO seeing circling vultures is a good thing. It is a part of nature we should welcome, and not be depressed about. It is all a part of nature’s recycling plan.

      None of us have “enough ticks on the clock,” no matter what our age number is at the time. It is what we do with each of those ticks that matters.

      Rejoice in what you have. What you have is what matters the most.

      Check out Shasta Wildlife Rescue here:

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Shasta Wildlife Rescue was my supplier of dead birds when I was testing the search efficiency of surveyors who were looking for dead birds killed by wind turbines.

        Early in the morning I would put out dead birds in the search area (three different size classes of carcasses).  When the surveyors searched the grids, if they found 60% of the large-sized planted birds, we assumed that however many non-planted birds they found of that size class, they were finding 60% of the actual mortalities.  For small birds, if they found 35% of the planted birds, we assumed they found 35% of the birds killed by the turbines.  We then adjusted the actual mortality numbers, estimated upward from the detection rates.

  11. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Well said, both Kay Ekwall and Steve.  Each newscast has me shaking my head, wondering what will POTUS do next?  What new idiocy will pour out the White House doors?  Then there is a poem like Kay Ekwall’s or a piece like Barbara Rice’s, and I have to remind myself that this too will pass and to count my blessings.  CYB rather than CYA.

  12. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    What a beautifully written piece.  The flowers of my Rose of Sharon are not as perfect as the one you photographed, but I love tending this plant.  A gift from a friend.

    Life is complex.  You edit out some of unpleasantness on this site before we are exposed to it.   I appreciate that.

    Thank you so much Barbara.